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How to Help Your Child Learn to Eat Apples

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Holidays with the Moore Family are just the best! Family, music, and food… especially everyone’s favorite dessert, baked apples, a traditional recipe passed down through the generations.

Everything about this apple dish had been perfected over the years, right down to the soft texture and crispy oat filling. No Moore had ever refused such a special dish!

As everyone finally settled down after dinner to enjoy dessert, a cry broke through the room… All eyes turned to little Thea, the youngest of the Moores. Thea’s mom, her face bright red from frustration, was attempting to coerce Thea into trying a piece of the family’s treasured dessert. 

“Just give it one bite, one try. Look, everyone enjoys it so much!” her mother pleaded.

“But the skin feels so weird and so slimy!” cried Thea.

It looked like this beloved dessert had finally met its match.

We all know that feeding kids can be challenging, and we want to help you get out of these food battles. Reversing picky eating is a long-term process, and we’re here to help you through it! Here’s our guide to help you teach kids to eat apples. You’ll learn: 

Related: Join BetterBites – the best selling course for the families of picky eaters

The Benefits of Apples for Kids

Here’s an interesting fruit fact! Did you know that there are over 7,000 varieties of apples? Apples can vary by color, texture and even flavor. 

Their beautiful coats can range from red to green; some even have stripes of yellow and red. Most amazingly, their coats have fiber! Fiber not only helps us poop, but it also helps us stay full longer. 

Apples can also be a good source of vitamin C. Vitamin C is super important to help our body function. A few benefits of vitamin C are helping with iron absorption, promoting skin health and maintaining strong muscles and bones.

Related: Need recipes with apples? Real Easy Weekdays: The Meal Plan for Busy Families

How to Serve Apples to Picky Eaters

We recommend varying the way you serve apples (and all foods) to picky eaters. You could serve apples raw (when age appropriate–see guidelines below), cooked or baked–like in the Moore family’s favorite dessert! They can also be served whole, sliced, chopped, diced and grated.

Choking Prevention Guidelines

  1. ⁠⁠Cut in 1/8s (and grind seeds & nuts) for age 1. Think 1/2 a pinky finger size.⁣
  2. Quarter (and smash seeds & nuts) for age 2⁣
  3. Half (or slivered nut pieces) for age 3⁣
  4. Most kids are fine to eat unmodified food at or after age 4

Additionally, serving micro portions to picky eaters may encourage them to try new foods. A micro portion is a small, pea-sized serving of food that is often less intimidating for a picky eater than an adult-sized serving. If your child refuses to eat apples, you could try serving a small, diced piece or a single shred of an apple during your next meal. 

Finally, we also recommend removing pressure from mealtimes. Think back to Thea’s situation. Her mother tried to make her eat apples. Once Thea felt that pressure, she decided she would not eat it. 

There are lots of ways a parent may unintentionally pressure a child to eat. Here are a few examples:

“Don’t waste it! There are so many kids who would feel lucky to have apples!” 

“You can’t leave this table until you clean your plate!”

“Oh my goodness! We are so proud of you! Just three more bites and then you will be done!”

Removing pressure can be a great way to teach your child to eat apples and other foods at their own pace.

Related: Get our picky eater guide – From Stress to Success: 4 Ways to Help Your Child Eat Better without Losing Your Mind

How to Talk About Apples to Help Your Child Try Them

Picky kids frequently use negative language about new food. “This is so nasty!” “I hate this!” “This is way too icky.” Negative language reinforces their picky behaviors. The negative mindset makes it so much harder for them to learn to try a new food.

There is great news, though! You can give them new words to use. You can model new words to help your child learn them. Do this by using a wide variety of neutral words (words that are neither positive nor negative) when speaking about foods or meals. 

If you use positive words, a fussy eater may think you are trying to convince them to eat it and be suspicious. If you use negative words, your fussy eater most definitely won’t want to eat it. Neutral words are an important part of our strategy to help your child learn to like apples in the long run. 

Here are some words you can use to describe apples to your selective eater: 

  • Red
  • Gold
  • Green
  • Crunchy
  • Sweet
  • Sour
  • Crisp
  • Juicy

How to Help Your Child Understand What Apples Do in Their Body

How we talk about foods with picky kids (or any kids!) can make it harder or easier for them to try a new food. For example, if you say, “This food is a healthy food,” your child may decide they don’t want to eat it before they even try it, convinced that you are trying to trick them. 

You usually can’t persuade a child like Thea to eat apples just because you want them to. Instead, you can start to talk about what foods do in your child’s body when it naturally comes up. 

We want to share information that a child can understand. We also want to help them make the connection that food does something in their body. 

Is this going to magically make them try something new? Probably not. This is another step in getting your child to eat apples.

Here are some messages for apples. You can come up with your own as well!

Age 0-3: Apples help your skin when you get a boo-boo.

Age 3-5: Apples can be so sour and sweet! Apples have vitamin C, which helps skin heal fast after you get a scrape. 

Age 6-11: Apples can be sweet or  sour and have vitamin C. Vitamin C helps our skin grow back after we get a cut or scrape.

Age 12-18: Apples contain vitamin C. Vitamin C helps with the formation of collagen. They both work together to make sure our body can regenerate itself and stay strong.

The next time the Moore family serves baked apples, Thea’s mom could tell Thea, “Apples can be sour. The vitamin C in apples helps your body heal itself!”

Apples Food Activity 

Food activities help kids learn to try new foods. When kids look at, touch, smell, and eventually taste a new food, they may be learning to like it. 

Food play also desensitizes the body’s sensory system. When a sense is new to the brain, the brain may automatically perceive it as a danger and may trigger the fight or flight system. “Desensitize” means that your child’s body becomes more used to the food. When your child is familiar with a food, it doesn’t seem so smelly, so slimy, or so sour to them. When your child’s body and brain are used to the food, they can learn to taste it. They may learn to like it as well.

Food activities can be as simple as having your child help prepare food with you. They can also be more fun and exciting if you want to put more time into them.

Apples activities aren’t going to make your child learn to like apples overnight. This is a process that may take a lot of time. For more nervous children or extremely picky eaters, start small with activities for looking and smelling. Gradually work up to more intensive activities like touching and tasting. 

Here is an example of an apple activity for kids. If you need more food activity ideas broken down by age of child (0 to 10-years-old) and stage of learning to like new foods, you may enjoy our food activities guide: Food Play Every Day.

Here is an apple activity that Thea’s family could do with her to get her to eat apples. 

Apple Puzzle Pieces

Age group: 5-8

Materials:

  • Mini cookie cutters (of any shape or size)
  • 1 or 2 apples

Steps:

1. Wash apples thoroughly.

2. Slice apples into 1-inch thick slices.

3. Use cookie cutters to cut out shapes from the slices. 

4. Scramble the shapes. Work with your child to fit each shape into its proper place.

For variations and more ideas, get Food Play Every Day: 102+ Food Activities for Kids!

Thanks for Being Part of Our Community That’s Teaching Kids to Eat More Foods!

About Kids Eat in Color

Kids Eat in Color gives parents the tools they need to teach their kids to eat veggies and try foods without a battle! From introducing new foods to a picky eater, to reducing meal-time stress, to taking off some of the burdens of meal planning, shopping, and cooking, we are here for parents. 

Author

Charlotte Scott

Reviewers

Jennifer Anderson, MSPH, RDN

Alli Delozier, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist

Laura Petix, M.S., OTR/L

Erinn Jacobi, M.S., OTR/L

Stefanie Kain, B.S., M.Ed

References

https://magazine.ucsf.edu/unbearable-sensation-being

https://usapple.org/apple-health-research

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-Consumer/

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/apples/

https://selecthealth.org/blog/2020/02/how-many-types-of-apples-are-there-and-which-is-best

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Kids-Need-Fiber-Heres-Why-and-How.aspx

https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/vitamins/vitamin-C

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579659/#:~:text=The%20Promotion%20of%20Collagen%20Formation,75%2C76%2C77%5D.

https://www.webmd.com/beauty/ss/slideshow-benefits-of-vitamin-c-for-skin

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